False religion is typically ambiguous, the gospel is not. The gospel is clear and straightforward. The gospel tells the truth with plainly spoken words that is so direct and also blatantly offensive. The Christian gospel says that every human being sins, because everyone has a corrupt nature. And all human beings have rebelled against God by the constant violation of His holy law.
The law is a reflection of God’s holy nature. Consequently, all sinners are under divine judgment for their rebellion. The punishment from God on all mankind is condemnation to eternal hell. There are people who are eager to remove that part of the gospel. But we learned in Galatians, that if anybody preaches another gospel let him be damned. Now that causes me to pose some questions.
“How do we know that we are all sinners?” Most people think that they are basically good. “What is the evidence that we are all sinners?” Very simple: Everyone dies. The Old Testament says, “The soul that sins, it shall die.” The New Testament says, “The wages of sin is death.” If you say you are not a sinner, then you have to explain why you die. The message of the gospel is clear and true.
But after that first affirmation there is a second affirmation in the gospel, and it is this: God loves the world, and offers people forgiveness and salvation. And that answers the second question: “Is there anything that can be done about my condition?” Yes. God provides deliverance from sin, from judgment, from death, from hell to those who have faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we know that that good news is true? The answer: the Bible gives us the proof of it. The Bible is a book written by God, using ordinary people that tells us about God’s love and forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God has the desire to save people because He loves sinners, and God has sent a Savior who provided a sacrifice for sin that granted salvation to those who believe.
The Bible is the proof of that, and the Bible stands on its own internal merit as inerrant and absolutely true. “How can I be sure that Christ is the Savior? If I’m going to turn to Him, put my faith in Him, how can I be sure that Christ is able to save me?” Here is the proof: He died and rose again from the dead. He died a death that essentially was the wrath of God on Him.
God’s wrath was not for any sins that Christ had done, for He had done none. But the Father imputed all the sins of all the people who had ever believed through all of human history to Christ and punished Him for all their sins. His was the death for the sins of all who believe. How do we know that His death satisfied God? Because God raised Him from the dead.
God was satisfied, His wrath was propitiated, and God raised Christ from the dead as a divine affirmation of the satisfaction of His own sacrifice. Those are the objective truths of the gospel. You are a Christian because you believe that. All true Christians understand them, and embrace them and believe them. But how can I be certain that I have truly believed and received that salvation?
This question is a personal question. And this addresses the difference between faith and assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ has the power to save; and assurance and faith that I have actually been saved by that power. Now as Christians, there are times when we struggle in that assurance of our salvation. One of the things as a pastor is to deal with people who lack assurance of salvation.
They don’t doubt that they’re sinful, they don’t doubt that God loves and provides a sacrifice in Christ, they don’t doubt that Christ has the power to save, they don’t doubt the resurrection, but they doubt that they are saved. “I try to do some things to serve the Lord; but I don’t see much as a result of that.” Someone like that gets discouraged and wonders whether they’ve actually been given spiritual life.
Another reality that steals your assurance is disobedience. You get caught up in sins and transgressions. And because of your willful disobedience, you will question, “Am I genuinely a believer?” And I’m not talking about the occasional stumble; but I’m talking about the fact that you realize that there’s something in you that continues to disobey. And you wonder, “Have I really been saved?”
And then there’s the presence of sort of habitual, indwelling sin. Here you are, you’ve been a believer for a while and you’re still struggling with the same exact sins that have been beleaguering you for years and years, and you wonder, “If I’m really a believer, why can I not get victory over these besetting sins?” And Satan tempts us to doubt. And doubt is a temptation.
There are other things. Neglect of worship: you come now and then, and then you wonder why you’re not certain of your salvation. You worship only on occasions with the people of God; in negligence of fellowship, negligence of prayer, negligence of boldness in the proclamation of the gospel. All these things are thieves that steal your assurance. Your salvation is fixed as a true believer. But your assurance still wavers.
Things never go the way you think, and you begin to wonder whether you are a child of God. So why doesn’t God pay more attention to you? And why does it seem that you’re suffering so much? These are the kinds of things that weaken and steal your assurance. And at some point, all Christians will have gone through a time where they will say, “Am I really saved?” Let us look to Scripture.
Galatians 4:1-5, “The heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Now look at Ephesians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
“7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him.”
This is the doctrine of adoption, one of the magnificent realities in the glorious complex of our salvation. We have been adopted into the family of God, and are children of God. He chose us, He predestined us to adoption as sons. Adoption is when you take a child born to another family and bring that child into your family for good. That is exactly what God does with us.
We were a part of Satan’s family; but God has adopted us when we became believers. 1 John 3:1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” He loves us enough not only to do the negative, to save us from our sins, but do the positive: adopt us into His own family, into His eternal Son, to share His full inheritance, the whole universe.
So how can I be certain that I truly believe in Christ so I am saved? And how do I know that I am really in Christ and have been adopted? Confirmation of that comes in verse 6, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” You are now God’s child, and because of that, God has sent the Holy Spirit into our heart.
The Spirit of His Son is the Spirit of Christ and is the Spirit of God. Ephesians 1:13-14, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
When you were justified, when you were converted, when you were saved, you were sealed with the Spirit of promise. The Spirit of promise took up residence in your heart; which was given to you as a pledge of our inheritance, which is coming later when we receive our heavenly bodies the moment we enter into the presence of the Lord. You have an inheritance that the Lord has prepared for you.
1 Peter 1:4, “We have an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” Jesus said in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” We have a place. We have a full inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and reserved for only us in heaven.
Then 1 Peter 1:5 says, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” So now we have this future inheritance, and we have a present protection, and that protection is the power of God; and that is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in us is the protecting power of God that secures us until we receive our inheritance.
2 Peter 1:4 says also, “You have become partakers of the divine nature.” That means that the very nature of God is part of you. Again, that is a reference to the indwelling Holy Spirit who provides for us this divine life and transformation. So if you are a true child of God, you possess the Holy Spirit. In fact, it’s so personal that verse 6 says, “God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price.” Romans 8:9, “If any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he’s not of His.” But you are His, and so you have the Holy Spirit. God puts His own Spirit in us. 1 Corinthians 12:13, “We are all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Your birth into the family of God determines your nature. You have died to the old man, you have died to your old life and you are now in Christ, a new creation. Our spiritual birth, our being born again relates to our nature. It is God’s work of transforming our nature, giving us spiritual life. On the other hand, adoption does not relate to our new nature, but it relates to our inheritance.
The reason that is important is that there are plenty of children who have been disinherited. We’re both born again into God’s family and we will receive the full inheritance of an adopted child. Adoption connects with election. Adoption connects with predestination in Ephesians 1:4-5, “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, predestined to adoption as sons.”
Romans 8:11, “His Spirit dwells in you.” Romans 8:14, “All who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” 1 John 3:24, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” Or Romans 5:5, “The love of God had been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” So we are told the Holy Spirit is given to us. He is in our hearts inside of us.
How do I know the Holy Spirit is in me? Well, there are a number of ministries that the Holy Spirit conducts. He teaches us. The Holy Spirit shows us all the blessings that God has given us. 1 John 2:27, “The Holy Spirit is the anointing that teaches us all things.” Maybe you have had a Luke 24:32 experience: “Did not our heart burn within us while He spoke with us from the Word of God?”
The Holy Spirit also leads us. You look back and you see providence after providence of the Lord directing my every single life step all the way. There is no explanation for this except from the Holy Spirit. You have gone through the trials of life, the difficulties of life, and you have found peace and comfort. You have experienced the comforting work of the Holy Spirit in your heart.
But there’s another specific thing that Paul is saying. You are saved because you have the Spirit of God in your heart. Verse 6, “And because He’s in your heart crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” The Holy Spirit in you is crying. You know you’re saved when you get to the point of suffering, and you cry out, “Abba,”, “Papa.” This is the evidence that you are a true child of God; when threatened you rush to your Father’s arms.
Unbelievers don’t do that. This is what believers do. And notice in verse 6, it is the Spirit of His Son crying, “Abba, Father,” in you. The Holy Spirit in you which sends you rushing into the presence of God. So the reality is, in the darkest hours, the reality of your salvation will show its most powerful proof. It’s something inside of us. It’s the Holy Spirit crying and it’s us crying, “Abba, Father,” They both are indistinguishable.
Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess Jesus as Lord, you will be saved.” But listen to 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” So it’s you saying, “Jesus is Lord,” in Romans 10; and it’s the Holy Spirit empowering our faith. It’s like all other acts of faith. Crying out from the depths of our broken hearts to God is not something we do alone, it’s a partnership with the Holy Spirit. Let us pray.